Cash cuts won’t stop us driving down fire deaths

Councillor Andrea McKenna
Councillor Andrea McKenna

FIRE bosses are determined to keep driving down blaze deaths in Calderdale despite massive Government spending cuts.

West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Authority stands to lose around £18m over the next four years due to cutbacks in central government grants.

But the head of a new task force launched to oversee how the authority meets those funding reductions says they are still aiming for a 26 per cent fall in the number of fire fatalities.

Councillor Andrea McKenna, who is leading the new committee, said: “Over the past 10 years our community safety work has helped drive down fire deaths and injuries to an all-time low, reduced fires in commercial property by over 50 per cent and seen a 73 per cent reduction in malicious calls.

“But if we don’t want to see those achievements crumble because of financial pressures we have to radically overhaul how we work.

“Our diminishing resources must be targeted at those at greatest risk so that, whenever possible, fire can be prevented in the first place or tackled effectively by having the right crews and equipment in the right place at the right time.”

“In future, services must be tailored to clearly identified risks within the community or to firefighter safety rather than just to geographical location.

“That might mean firefighters from a comparatively quiet station helping a busy station deliver its home fire safety checks or specialist officers working alongside other agencies to help frail or elderly people who may be particularly vulnerable.”

She said the new ways of working are aimed at ensuring that by 2015 there will be a 24 per cent cut in accidental house fires and a 20 per cent reduction in arson.

Councillor David Ridgeway, who chairs the fire authority, said the brigade could not avoid major structural change but neither could it afford to make community or firefighter safety a victim of that change.